PARIS (Reuters) - Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari warned that the international community was losing the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to an interview published on Tuesday.
Zardari also criticized those who cast doubt on Pakistan’s commitment to fighting militants, before he visits Britain which has warned Islamabad against promoting “the export of terror”.
“I believe that the international community, which Pakistan belongs to, is in the process of losing the war against the Taliban,” he told Le Monde newspaper. “And that is, above all, because we have lost the battle for hearts and minds.”
On the last day of a visit to France, Zardari said such fears would undermine international efforts against terrorism, adding that he would take up outspoken comments made by British Prime Minister David Cameron when they meet on Friday.
“It is unfortunate that certain individuals continue to express doubts and fears about our determination to fight militants to the end,” Zardari was quoted as saying in a statement.
“Such fears will only weaken the international effort to fight militants and extremists,” said the statement, issued by Zardari’s office before he met France’s foreign minister.
During a visit to India last week, Cameron suggested that Pakistan was not doing enough to fight terrorism prompted outrage in Islamabad, which summoned the Britain’s envoy on Monday.
“Pakistanis were disappointed by Cameron’s comments especially as he said them in India and for this reason it was even more important for the president to visit Britain to address this issue,” the statement said.
Western concerns about the reliability of Islamabad’s support in the conflict against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan have been heightened by the recent leak of classified U.S. military reports by the WikiLeaks website.
Zardari, who travels to Britain on Tuesday after the three-day visit to France, said Pakistan was taking control in the war against terrorism and that no other country had paid as big as price as his.
French officials said on Monday that President Nicolas Sarkozy was conciliatory in talks with Zardari, which did not touch on either the leaked military documents, or Cameron’s comments.
Cameron told Islamabad that it must not become a base for militants and “promote the export of terror” across the globe, in remarks that caused extra hurt as he made them in Pakistan’s arch-rival, India.
Protesters in Karachi burned an effigy of Cameron. Pakistan’s spy chief called off a trip to Britain in protest, but Zardari did not cancel his visit.
Zardari, who will visit a family home in northern France on Tuesday, is scheduled to meet Cameron on Friday at the British prime minister’s official country residence, Chequers. On Saturday he will address a rally of political supporters among Britain’s million-strong Pakistani community.
Reporting by John Irish and Daniel Flynn; Editing by David Stamp